Conclusion

Conclusion - The Good

  • Good exposure and color up to the highest ISO settings
  • ISO sensitivity up to 3200 (6400 in Hi-ISO mode) and fast aperture allow for usable results in very low light
  • Physical two-position shutter button
  • Good build quality, dust- and waterproof
  • Efficient HDR-mode
  • 4K video
  • Efficient digital video stabilization (but not as good as optical systems)
  • MicroSD-slot
  • Good battery life

Conclusion - The Bad

  • Noise and pixel-level artifacts across the ISO range
  • Strong blurring of fine low-contrast detail from base ISO
  • Soft spots in the lens of our sample unit
  • No control over exposure in Superior Auto mode
  • Camera app lacks structure and does not remember last shooting mode
  • Small and low-quality panorama images
  • Several special modes only produce 1080p output
  • Severe focus pumping in video mode, even in bright light
  • Lens location means it's very easy to shade with your finger

Overall Conclusion

From a mobile photography perspective the Sony Xperia Z2 is in many ways very similar to its predecessor, the Xperia Z1, and that's good and bad thing at the same time. The Z2 has the same environmental protection and premium-level build quality as the Z1 and the two-position shutter button give it a real camera-feel when taking pictures.  

However, the camera app is not too well structured and some of the special modes produce lower-quality results than the competition in the high-end bracket. Image quality itself has not noticeably improved from the Xperia Z1 and, when viewed at 100%, the 20.7MP output shows a lot of of noise, artifacts and blurring of fine detail which means that shooting at the default 8MP resolution is arguably the better option for most users. 

On the upside the Z2 images maintain good exposure and color even in very low light and even pictures taken at extreme ISO settings are still usable for social sharing and web use. Overall, the Z2 is still a good option for Android users but if pixel-level image quality or powerful camera features are a priority there are better alternatives around.

Features & Operation

The Z2 takes over most of the imaging features from its predecessor and the ability to install further shooting modes and apps from the Sony Store means that just trying the camera functions alone can keep you busy for days. However, when having a closer look at some of the special modes it becomes obvious that not all of them are as powerful as those we've seen on some competitors. 

Some modes, such as Timeshift Burst and Creative Effects, only capture output at 1080p full-HD video size. Panorama mode, arguably one of the most used special modes (and originally introduced to the camera market by Sony), produces much smaller images than on the Samsung Galaxy S5 or iPhone 5S. The stitching quality is not great either.

In terms of ergonomics the Xperia Z2's big plus is its two-position shutter button that, in combination with the phone's angular shapes, almost makes you feel like using a real camera. However, like on the Z1, the camera app needs to be easier to use. Superior Auto mode works well for point-and-shoot operation but overall the user interface design is not intuitive. For example 4K-video has its own mode instead of being implemented as just another video resolution and HDR mode and the full ISO range are not available at the full 20.7MP resolution which can take a while to get your head around. 

Image Quality

In terms of image quality the Xperia Z2 gets a lot of things right. Exposure and white balance are generally reliable and thanks to the combination of an ISO 3200 maximum sensitivity (in 8MP mode) and fast F2.0 aperture the Sony is capable of maintaining good exposure and color in lower light levels than some of the competition.  

However, when you start zooming into your images things turn ugly. In its 20.7 MP mode the Sony's images show a lot of noise, blurring of fine detail and artifacts right from base ISO upwards. The lens of our test sample also had several soft spots. Overall, the Xperia Z2 is definitely not recommended for pixel-peepers. That said, chroma noise, chromatic aberrations and moire patterns are all well under control across the ISO range. The pixel-level imperfections become less intrusive in the camera's 8MP mode and given the reduced storage requirements and better choice of shooting modes the latter is arguably the better resolution option for most users of the Xperia Z2.  

In both its dedicated 4K and standard video mode the Sony captures smooth footage but constant focus hunting, even in bright light, rendered many of our sample videos pretty much unusable. Hopefully Sony can improve things here with a firmware update, otherwise the Z2 can hardly be recommended to frequent video shooters.

The Final Word

The Xperia Z2 offers high-end specs all around and a nicely made body that offers premium materials and environmental sealing. However, on the imaging front Sony has not made any significant progress from last year's Xperia Z1 and in terms of both image quality and camera features there are currently better alternatives around.

Among the Android competitors the Samsung Galaxy S5 only comes in a plastic shell but offers better pixel-level image quality and more powerful features including panorama images that are multiple times larger than the Sony's. If the Windows Phone operating system is an option for you Nokia's Lumia 1520 and 930 models offer excellent image quality, Raw capture and arguably the best camera app in the business. App availability is still an issue though. The iPhone 5S is getting close to being superceded but is still the obvious choice if you're invested into Apple's mobile OS.  

That said, with its physical shutter button, environmental sealing and attractive exterior the Sony Xperia Z2 is still a great option for mobile photographers who are mainly operating in full-auto mode and not too concerned about pixel-level image quality.

DXOMark Mobile Score
79

DXOMark Image Quality Assessment

The Sony Xperia Z2 currently takes the number two spot in the DxOMark smartphone ranking, slotting in between the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the Nokia 808.

The Xperia Z2's images show good detail and comparatively low noise levels in all light conditions. The autofocus is reliable, fast and responsive. The the DxO team found the Z2 to deliver "good overall exposure," "nice colors in all conditions," and a "good overall flash performance."

On the downside the white balance can occasionally struggle outdoors and in mixed-light, flash scenarios. Close-up, the images also show "noticeable fringing, ringing and maze artifacts."

In video mode the Xperia Z2 displayed good overall performance with "decent stabilization, nice textures and low noise levels." However, the AF tends to be a little unstable. Like in stills mode, the video white balance can produce color casts when shooting in daylight. For a more detailed analysis, visit www.dxomark.com.

Photo Mobile Score 81   Video Mobile Score 73
Exposure and Contrast 88   Exposure and Contrast 95
Color 74   Color 79
Autofocus 84   Autofocus 52
Texture 83   Texture 81
Noise 84   Noise 81
Photo Artifacts 68   Video Artifacts 68
Flash 85   Stabilization 66
Sony Xperia Z2
Category: Mobile Phone
Camera and Photo Features
Screen Quality
Ergonomics and Handling
Video Quality
Still Image Quality
Speed and Responsiveness
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The Sony Xperia Z2 is made from premium-level materials and offers environmental sealing but the default camera app lacks a coherent structure and some imaging features are not as powerful as on competing models. Good exposure and color are maintained even in very low light but at a pixel-level the Sony cannot quite keep up with the best in class. That said, with its physical shutter button and solid build quality the Xperia Z2 is still a good option for mobile photographers who don't need large image sizes and predominantly operate in point-and-shoot mode.
76%
Overall score

Sample Gallery

There are 25 images in our Sony Xperia Z2 samples gallery, a mixture of 20.7 and 8MP files. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.

Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution.